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Know what the warning signs on your dashboard mean

By Maxine Ashford | August 22, 2023


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How often does a warning sign flash up on the driver display panel and you think, now what exactly does that mean? And, more importantly, does it matter?

Know what the warning signs on your dashboard mean

The fact is most warning lights are exactly that, warnings. So, it’s worth familiarising yourself with what’s what on the modern-day car with some featuring more lights than the Blackpool illuminations.

We have put together a quick guide to the most common signs, along with some that may be less frequently displayed.

Tyre Pressure Warning – All new cars are required to have a safety feature that monitors tyre pressures. If you see this warning sign, then it’s time to check those pressures.

Traction Control – This turns on when the traction control system is activated.

Reduced Power – This warning sign will alert the driver to an engine issue with reduced power levels.

Parking Brake Light – With less cars fitted with ‘proper’ handbrake levers these days, this sign is important as it shows that the electric parking handbrake is on.

Battery – There is an issue with the battery charge levels.

Icy Road Warning – When temperatures outside dip to about three or four degrees (depending on the model), this sign will warn the driver about icy road conditions.

Transmission Temperature Warning – The engine is on its way to overheating and needs immediate attention.

Check Engine or Malfunction Indicator Light – This comes on when the ignition is turned on. If it stays on, there is a problem with the engine that needs immediate attention.

Brake Lights Warning – This warns that one of the brake light bulbs is not working properly.

Brake Pad Warning – Worn brake pads can be dangerous if not replaced. This is the warning sign if the pads are showing signs of wear.

Anti-lock Braking System – This warning sign alerts the driver to an issue concerning the ABS which needs attention as soon as possible

Airbag warning – The front passenger side airbag can be turned off – for example when carrying a pet or child seat. If this warning sign is shown, then there may be a fault with the airbag or seatbelt.

Adaptive Suspension Dampers – This warning means there is an issue with the suspension system that needs urgent attention.

Automatic Gearbox Warning – This means there is a fault with the gearbox that needs addressing urgently.

Front fog lights – This is illuminated when the front fog lights are on

Rear Fog Lights – Following someone who forgets to switch off their rear fog lights can be really irritating, so this light means they are still activated.

High Beam – This is a reminder that the high beam is still on and will be dazzling to oncoming traffic. It can often be left on accidently when flashing the lights at other road users.

Rain and Light Sensor – Most newer cars feature automatic rain and light sensors to activate the wipers or lights when needed. If this sign is illuminated, there is an issue with the function.

Low Fuel – Probably the one sign everyone has seen once or twice. It means it’s time to top up with fuel.

Key Not Detected –Many vehicles are push button start these days where the key can be detected automatically in a bag or pocket. This means the key is not in the car.

Door Open – This means a front or rear door has not been closed properly.

Bonnet Open – This means the bonnet has not been closed properly.

Lane Departure Warning – This means the car is wandering out of its lane.

Lane Assist – This safety system is designed to detect the lane markings and help steer the car within those lines.

Cruise Control – This means the cruise control system is activated.

Adaptive Cruise Control – An advanced form of cruise control whereby the car will brake and accelerate to keep you a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Blind Spot Indicator – This warns you of a vehicle in your blind spot to prevent you from pulling across into their path.

AdBlue – It’s time to top that diesel model up with AdBlue

Catalytic Converter Warning – A fault has been detected with the catalytic converter system.

Recirculated Air – The air is being recirculated from within the cabin rather than fresh air from outside. This is best for summer months as it recirculates the air that has already been cooled by the AC.

Washer Fluid Levels Low – It’s time to top up the washer fluid levels.

Front Screen Defrost – The front windscreen is being cleared.

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